Rasmus Dahlin projects to be the first overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
The multi-faceted Swedish defenseman is expected to be followed off the board by a pair of European-born, CHL-based wingers in Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts and Filip Zadina of the Halifax Mooseheads.
The trio earned the highest Overall Future Projection (OFP) scores, as per the 20/80 grading system developed by McKeen's Director of Scouting Ryan Wagman.
The top three OFP grades of 65.50 (Dahlin), 63.75 (Svechnikov), and 63.50 (Zadina) represent a slight upgrade over the top picks from 2017, namely Nico Hischier (New Jersey), Nolan Patrick (Philadelphia), and Miro Heiskanen (Dallas).
Hischier and Patrick were the only 2017 draftees to earn OFP scores of at least 60, whereas this season there are five players.
American-born wingers Brady Tkachuk, the son of NHL Hall-of-Fame winger Keith Tkachuk, and Oliver Wahlstrom achieved scores of 61.25 and 60.75 respectively, and are rated fourth and fifth in the 2018 McKeen's Draft Rankings
The Ottawa Senators and Arizona Coyotes hold the fourth and fifth selections, in line to take Tkachuk and Wahlstrom, but will be tempted as well by a quartet of talented defensemen occupying the next four spots in the rankings (6-9).
Quinn Hughes enjoyed an outstanding freshman season at the University of Michigan, however his undersized stature (sub 5-10") might sway some NHL clubs to look instead at Evan Bouchard (6-2"/195) of the London Knights, the top-scoring defensemen in the CHL with 87 points, or Noah Dobson (6-3"/180), a Memorial Cup winner with Acadie-Bathurst.
Smooth-skating Swede Adam Boqvist of Brynas is rated ninth, yet considered more of a wildcard who could either move up or down the draft board. It should be noted that Boqvist did receive an OFP score of 59.75 - the sixth-highest mark among the 2018 draft class, with the caveat that the OFP is meant to look at highest reasonable projection, but does not necessarily account for inherent prospect uncertainty.
Unlike last year when seven of the top ten picks were centers, the 2018 draft class is lacking in high-end centermen prospects.
The last time the top 10 was this bereft of centers was in 2012 when Montreal also had the third-overall pick and selected Alex Galchenyuk.
Joe Veleno of the Drummondville Voltigeurs is the top-rated pivot in the McKeen's ranking at No. 10, with Barrett Hayton at 11 (Sault Ste. Marie) and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Assat Pori) at 13, both hot on his heels.
Slick left winger Joel Farabee of the U.S. National Development Program is ranked 12th and, along with Hayton and Kotkaniemi, a legitimate candidate to move up and land a top 10 selection.
Blueliners round out the top 15 in the form of K'Andre Miller of the NTDP, a favourite among the McKeen's staff, and Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs, who captained Team Canada at the U18 World Junior Championship.
It wasn't a particularly good performance for Smith at the WU18 which, along with a disastrous showing at the CHL Top Prospects Game, helped to soften his stock after being ranked No. 10 in the McKeen's preliminary rankings back in October.
An array of European forwards occupy five of the next six spots including Russian Vitali Kravtsov (16th), German Dominik Bokk (17th), Swede Isac Lundestrom (19th), Czech Martin Kaut (20th), and Finn Rasmus Kupari (21st).
The Ontario Hockey League dominates the end of the opening round led by Serron Noel of the Oshawa Generals, an intriguing prospect at 6-5" and 205 pounds, easily the largest body in the first round. He began and ended the season in the No. 22 spot, though scouting projections vary as to what his true scoring upside might be.
Slotted next are a pair of blueliners in Rasmus Sandin (Sault Ste. Marie) and Jared McIsaac (Halifax) who followed quite divergent paths before settling beside one another in the final rankings at 23rd and 24th.
Sandin impressed immediately upon arriving to the Soo in late October, and continued to raise his portfolio throughout the campaign.
Conversely, McIsaac, the second-overall pick in the 2016 QMJHL draft, began the season as a potential top 10 pick only to slip down in the rankings, propelled by a mistake-filled performance at the CHL Top Prospects Game in January. He wasn't alone in that regard.
No one of right mind could have predicted the expansion Vegas Golden Knights would march to the Stanley Cup Finals, conquering the NHL Western Conference - and with somewhat relative ease.
Intense, smothering, relentless, fast, skilled... some of the adjectives ascribed to Vegas on their incredible quest. These characteristics ooze from Vegas' ridiculous top line of William Karlsson (a second-round pick in 2011 by Anaheim), Reilly Smith (a Dallas third-rounder in 2009), and 5-9" undrafted winger Jonathan Marchessault.
Skating, shooting, puck skills, hockey IQ, physicality - these are the attributes measured for skaters using the 20/80 grading system to arrive at an Overall Future Projection (OFP) score.
Six areas are assessed for goalies: athleticism/quickness, compete/temperament, vision/play reading, technique/style, rebound control and puck handling.
The remaining players filling out the first round in the McKeen's rankings each display elements of what NHL teams are looking for and attained high OFP scores from our scouting staff.
Of this group, Akil Thomas (26th) of the Niagara IceDogs earned the top OFP grade of 56.75.
Calen Addison (Lethbridge) and Ryan Merkley (Guelph) were next with OFP's of 56.25 and 56.00 respectively, and hold down the final two spots in the opening round. All players below this in the rankings received OFP scores below 56.00.
The lure of speed and skill will draw attention to the forwards at the bottom of the first round - Liam Foudy (25th), Akil Thomas (26th), Grigori Denisenko (27th), Jonatan Berggren (28th), and Ryan McLeod (29th).
Foudy of the London Knights was arguably the biggest riser over the draft season as the Scarborough, Ontario native distinguished himself at the CHL Top Prospects off-ice testing, placing first in four tests (and top 3 in 9). He then emerged over the second half with an eye-opening 19-game stretch in which he scored 18 goals.
The other big riser was Berggren, who shot the lights out in the Swedish Junior ranks and showed improvement at each international event culminating in a very good performance at the U18 Worlds.
|1||Rasmus Dahlin||D||Frolunda (Swe)||6-2/185||13-Apr-00||Sweden|
|2||Andrei Svechnikov||RW||Barrie (OHL)||6-2/190||26-Mar-00||Russia|
|3||Filip Zadina||RW||Halifax (QMJHL)||6-0/195||27-Nov-99||Czech|
|4||Brady Tkachuk||LW||Boston University (HE)||6-3/195||16-Sep-99||USA|
|5||Oliver Wahlstrom||RW||NTDP (USA)||6-1/205||13-Jun-00||USA|
|6||Quinn Hughes||D||Michigan (B1G)||5-10/175||14-Oct-99||USA|
|7||Evan Bouchard||D||London (OHL)||6-2/195||20-Oct-99||Canada|
|8||Noah Dobson||D||Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)||6-3/180||7-Jan-00||Canada|
|9||Adam Boqvist||D||Brynas (Swe)||5-11/170||15-Aug-00||Sweden|
|10||Joe Veleno||C||Drummondville (QMJHL)||6-1/195||13-Jan-00||Canada|
|11||Barrett Hayton||C||Sault Ste Marie (OHL)||6-1/190||9-Jun-00||Canada|
|12||Joel Farabee||LW||NTDP (USA)||5-11/165||25-Feb-00||USA|
|13||Jesperi Kotkaniemi||C||Assat Pori (Fin)||6-1/190||6-Jul-00||Finland|
|14||K'Andre Miller||D||NTDP (USA)||6-3/205||21-Jan-00||USA|
|15||Ty Smith||D||Spokane (WHL)||5-10/180||24-Mar-00||Canada|
|16||Vitali Kravtsov||RW||Traktor Chelyabinsk (Rus)||6-2/170||23-Dec-99||Russia|
|17||Bode Wilde||D||NTDP (USA)||6-2/195||24-Jan-00||USA|
|18||Dominik Bokk||RW||Vaxjo Lakers (Swe)||6-1/180||3-Feb-00||Germany|
|19||Isac Lundestrom||C||Lulea (Swe)||6-0/185||6-Nov-99||Sweden|
|20||Martin Kaut||RW||Pardubice (Cze)||6-1/175||2-Oct-99||Czech|
|21||Rasmus Kupari||C||Karpat Oulu (Fin)||6-1/185||15-Mar-00||Finland|
|22||Serron Noel||RW||Oshawa (OHL)||6-5/205||8-Aug-00||Canada|
|23||Rasmus Sandin||D||Sault Ste Marie (OHL)||5-11/185||7-Mar-00||Sweden|
|24||Jared McIsaac||D||Halifax (QMJHL)||6-1/195||27-Mar-00||Canada|
|25||Liam Foudy||C||London (OHL)||6-0/175||4-Feb-00||Canada|
|26||Akil Thomas||C||Niagara (OHL)||5-11/170||2-Jan-00||Canada|
|27||Grigori Denisenko||LW||Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Rus)||5-11/175||24-Jun-00||Russia|
|28||Jonatan Berggren||RW||Skelleftea (Swe)||5-10/185||6-Jul-00||Sweden|
|29||Ryan McLeod||C||Mississauga (OHL)||6-2/205||21-Sep-99||Canada|
|30||Calen Addison||D||Lethbridge (WHL)||5-10/180||11-Apr-00||Canada|
|31||Ryan Merkley||D||Guelph (OHL)||5-11/170||14-Aug-00||Canada|